Category: Travel Blog (page 1 of 2)

Gkhui Gkhui and the Magic of the Karoo

It was mid-November and I was heading south to one of my favorite locations… As the last bit of concrete and steel from South Africa’s judicial capital disappeared in my rearview mirror and the horizon lit up with dancing illusions on the salt pans of the Great Karoo my mind drifted back to the places I’ve visited in the last 12 months. I was lucky enough to see some amazing and breathtakingly beautiful places but none quite like the Karoo.

There’s something about this semi-desert region of Southern Africa with its long narrow roads and vast plains of emptiness that I find alluring. It’s difficult to describe, probably because there isn’t much to describe, but the Karoo just feels right to me and every time I go back I get a familiar, coming home, feeling. This time the Karoo was going to be home for at least a week, as we got invited by Chris van der Post and his family to film an episode of the WildFly fishing series at their lodge on the banks of the Orange River. Gkhui Gkhui River Lodge is a brand new fly fishing and hunting lodge that was built early in 2017. The luxury accommodation is situated 20 minutes outside Hopetown, around some of the best Yellowfish waters I have come across.

 

When we first walked down the pathway towards the main entrance of the lodge my expectations were already exceeded and like the first couple bars of a catchy song I could tell the rest was going to be good. We were greeted by Chris and his friendly staff who were waiting to serve us lunch and the start of what was to be an unforgettable dining experience. No kidding, the food was unbelievable as Chris’s wife and sister-in-law cooked up traditional “boerekos” with a modern day twist, think Bobby Flay born on a farm somewhere in the Free State.

With stomachs filled we set out for an afternoon session on the river. As luck would have it we timed it perfectly, timing plays a big role on this particular stretch of the Orange River. With Vanderkloof Dam 45 minutes upstream, the river rises a considerable amount when they let out water at the dam wall for the purpose of generating electricity. Around mid-morning, the water rises and then starts to drop again late afternoon. Chris explained to us how the fishing really comes on when the water levels start to drop.

My game plan for this particular trip was to do a lot of sight fishing to Smallmouth and Largemouth Yellows and where possible present big dry flies to see if I could peak the interest of any golden resident. Unfortunately, due to dam upstream being low, coming out of a major drought the water color wasn’t its usual emerald green and slightly murky but clearing as the levels dropped. I stuck to the plan though and rigged up a dry- dropper rig to fish the waters around the lodge and the plan paid off. I even convinced a juvenile largie to eat the dropper nymph in the very first session.

Part of our mission was also to target some Largemouth yellows and the next day we did a few drifts, looking for some big largies. I started off with a solid take on large streamer I was stripping through some flooded weed, the fish didn’t stay on for long however and then it went quiet. Now I’ve done enough largie fishing to know that it’s just par for the course but when the wind picked up later in the afternoon bringing with it some dubious looking clouds we made a collective decision to focus on the smallmouth yellows, targeting them on dries. I would have to go back another time, hopefully with some better conditions to bag the elusive one.

So the next 3 days we spent searching for yellows who would rise to the surface to eat our dry fly presentations. Chris who knows this stretch of the Orange River like the back of his hand would move between upstream and downstream spots to accommodate the high water levels and ensure we fish the most productive waters at the right time. What followed was the best dry fly fishing I have experienced in quite some time. We would walk in pairs and spot fish in pocket water, one angler would line up the cast as the other kept eyes on the fish, a short cast with a slight plop of the fly would do the trick as we stood and watched every fish slowly rise to investigate. We had some refusals, some missed takes and also dropped one or two good fish but we also managed to land some good smallmouth and capture a few of the best dry fly eats I’ve seen on film.

On our final day the foul weather finally set in, we woke up to a miserable drizzle and wind that would later pick up to 20 knots. Now, what’s a fly fishing trip without bad weather…? I wasn’t too bothered though, we had some amazing fishing the day before and finished off the show with some good footage that we can string together for what in my opinion will be a great episode and something completely different. It was decided that we would stick around and fish a small branched off stream in front of the lodge which so happens to be fairly sheltered from windy conditions if they do occur. My good friend Richard put the camera down for a couple of hours and got behind the rod. We noticed some fish rising so I tied on a large beetle. Rich made a cast towards the rising fish making sure to plop the fly at the end of the cast. Sure thing the fish came up to see what the ruckus was and in the same breath sipped down the beetle like it was a dry martini. With high fives and hero shots out of the way I pulled out my little point and shoot camera and we took turns at filming and fishing for these eager yellows and ended the short session with 6 smallies on dry and some crazy takes on camera which I will be editing into a little behind the scenes vlog episode, so stay tuned.

On the whole, it was another adventure for the books and it just reaffirmed my stance that the Orange River is a world-class fly fishing destination, and Gkhui Gkhui lodge is the complete package for anglers looking to experience the best that the Orange River has to offer. With experienced fishing guides, luxury accommodation and excellent catering it’s worth booking your next fishing adventure with Gkhui Ghkui River Lodge.

A Worried Man

Guy Lobjoit is a worried man

One of the owners of Guma Lagoon Camp in the Okavango Delta Panhandle, Guy has spent most of his adult life introducing tourists and friends, to the many natural splendors of this watery wonderland.

The Okavango is not a place for the faint of heart. Dangerous animals large and small are constant companions. Medical help is uncertain and provisions difficult to obtain, transport and store in this hot remote African frontier.

But Guy and his wife Bev have built a life and family here, justifiably proud of the service they offer at Guma, passionate about what they do and their part in the conservation and awareness of this incredible World Heritage Site.

Guy is also a renowned and avid angler.

Over the past decade, with the assistance of Airlinks direct flights to Maun, we have visited the Okavango Delta many times to fish and enjoy the phenomenon of the annual Barbel Runs.

Like any natural event timing may vary, and some years are better than others, but we have experienced some of the most amazing catch and release angling anywhere in the world right here in this jewel of Africa.

The runs normally occur around October when the annual flood waters cascading from the highlands in Angola and wending their way through Namibia and into the otherwise arid north western reaches of Botswana start to recede off the flood plains, bringing with it an abundance of small baitfish on which the larger species feed.

But over the past 2 years things have changed dramatically. The schooling Barbel themselves are very much smaller than ever before and species like the beautiful Nembwe have completely disappeared from the system. Other Bream species and the Tiger fish we love to catch and release have seen a radical decline in numbers and a change in behavioral patterns.

What has caused this sudden change?

Well the answer is no-one knows.

Theories and rumors are plentiful, but really no more than speculation. Netting is often blamed, but this practice has been going on for decades and could certainly not have wiped out an entire species in this short period of time.

Water levels is another possibility, but these have fluctuated for eons without the apparent damage we are seeing now.

What needs to happen is an urgent scientific study on salinity, PH levels and testing of the water for contaminants poisonous to fish. Guy has been trying, with the voluntary help of other concerned parties, to institute this, but a project of this magnitude requires government intervention and assistance. Given that this area is a World Heritage Site one would assume international assistance would also be a possibility.

In the short time we were there our crews covered over 200 km of the panhandle searching for Barbel runs. Those we did find seemed to be juvenile fish acting on instinct rather than the normal feeding frenzy and in most instances the other species that normally accompany the runs were absent, barring one or two small Tigers in the general area.

The one exception occurred on our last morning when Guy and I found runs closer to Guma which had attracted a fair number of the vicious Tigers. Over a period of about 2 hours our poppers and stick baits were attacked again and again, with the normal low hook up rate on surface lures, but still a fairly impressive number of fish were landed and returned. On previous trips the average size of Tigerfish patrolling the runs and getting to the lures first would have been between 3 and 4 KG’s……..this time the largest fish landed was 2.7 KG with the average below 1 KG.

The Bream species were also very skittish compared to earlier experiences, but we didn’t put in as many hours hunting for them as we did the Tigers. Guy, however, is adamant their numbers have dwindled alarmingly as well.

Unlike the spectacular bird and animal life in the Okavango, which are a visual and constant reminder of the heritage and beauty of Africa, the fish that swim below the surface of the water are largely taken for granted or simply not considered at all. Yet without a viable underwater habitat the whole food chain might break down endangering one of the most exceptional tourism destinations on the planet, as well as the rare and endangered species that thrive there.

Guy is right to be worried, as should we all.

Tarpon Fever

My long held dream of catching a Tarpon on fly remains just that.

No excuses.

On a recent trip to the Kwanza River Lodge in Angola I had my chances and came up short.

Kwanza Lodge and River mouth

Actually I could come up with any number of excuses of course, but sometimes simply wanting something too badly adds fuel to the adrenaline coursing through your veins when the goal is in sight and things go all to hell.

Now when I say in sight, I mean literally swimming in front of you.

These magnificent fish grow to around 140 kg’s in this neck of the woods (or jungle) and the larger specimens move between the ocean and the river depending on tides and seasons.

Once Tommo had landed at 75 kg monster on live bait at sea and shown us pic’s of the behemoth, we realized we were well out of our depth with our puny 12 weight fly rigs and scuttled back to the relative safety of the river.

Tommo up close and personal with his giant Tarpon

Not to say there are not very large Tarpon roaming there as well, but the “juveniles” of up to 40 kg seemed a much more realistic option to target. Until Gareth caught his first one of about 10 kg’s and took around half an hour to land it.

When it comes to fly fishing, actually seeing the fish you are casting to is the holy grail of the sport. Tarpon are probably the largest fish on the planet that will happily gobble a seemingly insignificant small fly when hungry and will do so both under the water or on the surface.

 When on the move, the smaller Tarpon will swim in schools, often within meters of the beach and remain close to the surface, regularly “porpoising” and at these times will generally compete for any fly coming near them.

When attacking, these ancient predators will open their cavernous mouths and gulp a large amount of water, prey and all, in and over their gill plates, filtering any solid matter which remains as food.

This is where things got tricky for me. The accepted mantra of slow strip for Tarpon, which makes perfect sense considering how they eat, was easier said than done. General practice when seeing a fish coming for your fly is to speed up the strip, thus inducing a strike. Of course when the fish is busy inhaling your fly with a wide open mouth it doesn’t help one iota if you pull the bloody thing out.

The Silver King, as it is reverentially referred to the world over, has not survived since prehistoric times by being easy prey itself. For 6 full days we wielded heavy 12 weight outfits from a ski boat in a deadly dance with wind, waves, fatigue and sharp hooks- looking for our chances.

They came. But few and far between. Much of our time was spent casting blind into murky water, more in hope than with any specific plan. At times a huge silver splash nearby would reignite the belief and keep tired arms moving. At others, the mirror calm water helped not at all.

The times of madness came with low light, early morning and evening.

As the tide changed a scum and papyrus line would form in the river attracting marauding groups of juvenile “Poons”. Seemingly unperturbed by the motors, we were able to get close enough to put flies amongst them. The first fish Gareth hooked somersaulted 6 feet out of the water and spat his fly disdainfully back at him.

We continued to pay school fees.

Gareth got the hang of it and landed two nice fish, over the week. I, on the other hand suffered terribly from what in hunting terms is known as “bokkoors” an adrenaline induced malfunction of the brain, causing an inability to do what your mind is telling you to do.

Gareth with a manageable Tarpon on fly near the river mouth.

I’m seeing a shrink now and he thinks he’s getting on top of it. Yeah right, easy to say from your leather armchair, wait until that Silver King is coming at you….

I’m hooked!!

Fresh Water Ocean

The longest freshwater body of water in the world is Lake Tanganyika. It is also the second deepest (1.5km) and remarkably contains approximately 16% of the earths fresh water supply.

Holding over 350 different species of fish, it stands to reason that given the chance, any fisherman worth his salt would leap at the opportunity to explore this marine wonderland.

We did just that.

 

The vast expanse of the fresh water ocean, Lake Tanganyika

 

Luckily, and against considerable logistical odds, a lady called Sandra Valenza, an avid angler from Zambia, has over the past few years, obtained and revamped an iconic lodge in the Nsumbu National Park called Nkamba Bay.

 

Although the lake as a whole, bordered by the DRC, Burundi, Tanzania and Zambia, has seen severe fishing pressure negatively affect fish stocks, Nkamba Bay itself lies in this area protected by the Zambian Wildlife Authority (ZAWA).

 

Flying on Proflight from Durban to Lusaka was a bonus for us, being based in KZN, and an overnight in Lusaka at the friendly PalmWood Lodge got us into the right frame of mind for a fishing trip. Tommo introduced me there to Nshima, Zambia’s staple maize porridge, and chicken curry-delicious.

 

 

Another 2 hour flight on Proflight to Kasama and a private charter to the lake saw us duly ensconced at the pub on the elevated deck of Nkamba Bay Lodge with a cold beer and a spectacular view over the crystal clear water where a pod of hippos frolicked happily.

 

 

Tommo and I were fishing conventional spinning tackle while Jerry and Gareth worked flies off the large comfortable ocean going ski-boats.

 

 

Given that there are 4 different species of Perch, Tiger Fish and a seemingly endless number of Cyclid species happy to chase a lure or fly, the opportunities are plentiful. The guys on fly were battling a bit with the wind drift making it difficult to get the flies down to anything more than around 10 meters. But even then, they were picking up plenty of the voracious smaller Cyclids and the odd juvenile Perch around the rocky shore line.

 

 

On spinners and lures, with light braid, we were more competitive and had racked up so many species on the first day we had lost count. Fish of every shape, size and colour attacked anything in their path. Interestingly, the largest Cyclid species on earth, called Nkupe, live in large numbers in Lake Tanganyika and when schooling near the surface will happily take a popper or stick bait. The sought after Peacock Bass found in the Amazon basin is also a member of the Cyclid clan, but comes second in size to the Nkupe.

 

We found the larger Perch holding in deeper water over 30 meters, but unfortunately all attempts to bring them to the surface without severe Barotrauma (expansion of the swim bladder) and thus probably killing the fish, were futile. So we stopped fishing at anything deeper than 25 meters.

 

The fly guys managed to snag a couple of small Tigers, but other than one decent smash on a copper spoon we had no joy on the toothy critters. We all managed a number of Perch, but nothing over around 8 kg’s. I found a large bright paddle tail soft plastic fished like a bucktail jig worked well for both the Cyclids and Perch.

 

When fishing Lake Tanganyika its often hard to remember you’re in fresh water, the sheer magnitude of the lake, its extreme depth and seemingly endless number of species is far more reminiscent of blue water ocean fishing. For light tackle spinning and popping enthusiasts it’s paradise, and as mentioned if you’d like to tick off the world’s biggest Cyclid, this is where it’s at.

 

 

Nkamba Bay Lodge is the only place to stay, due to being inside the National Park, good food and service, as well as comfortable air conditioned rooms. They also have a number of boats to choose from.

 

For something completely different try getting to this fresh water ocean and ticking off some unusual bucket list species.

Zambezified

Kipling’s writing immortalized the great grey-green greasy Limpopo – it would be fascinating to read his words had he experienced the majesty of the Zambezi River on his travels.

What a spellbinding waterway it is.

 

Fly Fishing on the mighty Zambezi River with River God Adventures

 

The longest East flowing river on the continent of Africa surely traverses some of its most precious and game rich terrain.

Rising in the North Western reaches of Zambia and offering  life giving waters to the inhabitants of six countries on its relentless 3500 km passage to the Indian Ocean, it is used for vital electric power creation on both the Kariba and Cahora Bassa dam projects.

The spectacular Victoria Falls are probably the rivers most impressive single feature, but for anyone who has spent time on its waters the Zambezi will inevitably leave an indelible mark.

 

Victoria Falls Photo Credit Mario Micklisch 2014

 

Now we fish a lot, and if there is one river that has drawn us back again and again, it’s this one. Of course the notorious hard mouthed Tiger Fish plays a significant role in this. But its much more than that.

The Zambezi is not a particularly deep river and thus is not navigable in large boats, but it spreads out over the plains of Southern Africa, creating beautiful islands and pristine white sandbars where nature in all her glory seems to spend more time than in other places. In the drier month’s animals of every type congregate along the banks and lagoons, where the certainty of water is secure.

Huge herds of Elephant and Buffalo inhabit the islands and frolic amongst the papyrus in the searing heat, while hippo and crocodiles happily co-exist in their watery world.

 

 

We were back on the section of river between the Kariba wall and Cahora Bassa, which boasts both the Lower Zambezi National Park on the Zambian side and Mana Pools National Park opposite in Zimbabwe. Truly a Garden of Eden experience.

We stayed first at Royal Zambezi Lodge (RZL), which is one of the bigger operations in this area, offering all the luxuries and amenities expected these days in Africa, whilst at the same time doing so in an understated and friendly environment. Families with children are welcomed at RZL, which is unusual in an area rich in big wild cats and large herbivores. The fantastic well stocked bar perched on a wooden deck in the deep shade of a magnificent Sausage Tree was a favourite haunt and one could spend hours there cooling off in the sparkling pool with a cold Mosi in hand simply taking in the mighty Zambezi and its wild inhabitants.

 

A warm welcome from the Royal Zambezi Lodge

 

Unfortunately for us, an early rainstorm morphed into a full on deluge and more than 170mm of rain fell on our first night, turning the river a roiling chocolate brown. But even then we were able to entice 7 different species onto our hooks over the next couple of days as the water started to clear.

Our next stop was a wonderful new Zimbabwean operation called “River God Adventures” offering something completely new. A fully kitted out “house boat” that is able to navigate the river due to its shallow draught. Sleeping up to 8 guests comfortably, with a hot water shower and flush toilet on board, as well as a large galley churning out the kind of food that has made Zimbabwean chefs justly famous.

 

 

Although we did not have time to do the full trip, the normal itinerary is a 5-night voyage from Chirundu near the Kariba wall down the river to Masau Camp, near where the river enters Cahora Bassa. From a fishing perspective, this means that one gets to fish both the wide slow sections of the river as well as the deeper faster flowing gorge area.

The freedom to pull up onto an uninhabited stretch of beach for sundowners and dinner served al fresco under a gazebo on squeaky white sand, while taking in the sights sounds and smells of Africa is a special experience indeed and is certainly one of the reasons this operation is already running high occupancies and should be booked well in advance.

 

An evening spent on a secluded stretch of the Zambezi River

 

I am convinced the Zambezi is one of the most spectacular rivers on the planet, but I may be biased. I suggest you jump on an Airlink flight to check it out for yourself as soon as possible. I bet you get hooked too.

 

For more information please email:

Royal Zambezi Lodge reservations1@royalzambezilodge.com

River God Adventures info@rivergodadventures.com

 

Inside Angling was invited by Rico Sakko to fish in Morocco for white marlin in August 2017. Rico is an old friend who we have fished with in Angola many times, he had fished Morocco last year for white marlin and had an amazing experience. This year he was bringing his son, Vincent, who is 12 years old, and hoping to break the junior world record for white marlin. He also invited Henry Gradwell, an 85 year old fishing legend from my home town, to come and catch his first white marlin and tick his last box in terms of marlin species.

We flew Emirates direct from Durban to Dubai, leaving Durban at 7.30pm and landed in Dubai at 05.30am. (their time) after an 8 and a half hour flight. We flew from Dubai at 7.30am and landed in Casablanca at 12.45 Moroccan time. We watched movies on the flights, including ‘Casablanca’ the old black and white film made in the 1940’s starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. We were exhausted when we arrived, as we hadn’t got much sleep at all, with a family with three noisy, seat kicker kids behind us on the second flight.

We were collected at the airport by our skipper, John Huntington, from California USA, and his deckhand Ousman. Ousman is a Senegalese, who fishes fro the Senegal national team back home. They drove us to Mohammedia, which took just over half an hour of interesting driving. The Moroccans drive fast and use the whole road.

We checked in to the Mohammedia Avanti hotel, which is four star and is considered the best option in town. Rates are around $100 per night for a room and breakfast, not bad value.
The rooms weren’t ready yet when we arrived , so we got some beers at the bar just off reception. Three Casablanca beers and a coke cost us 280 Dirhams, around R390.
We won’t be doing too much of that then!

We had a shower, then walked along the beach front promenade looking for a place to eat. It is lined with little al fresco type café’s, and it is a long weekend, so the beach was very busy as are the promenade and the café’s. There were fun rides, slides, a big pool with paddle boats, ponies and horses to ride, vendors selling nuts, sweets, donuts etc. Nobody bothered us at all. The beach was very clean, with plenty of people and umbrellas. It only gets dark here after 8.30pm.
The promenade smelt quite strongly of urine, which wasn’t too pleasant, but you kind of get used to it after a bit.
We ate at a little spot called ‘Lips Snacks’ . Pam had a Pizza and I ordered a Tagine, very excited to taste the local food. My tagine arrived and had cooking oil and a fried egg in it and a nice plateful of chunks of crusty bread. Hmm not quite what I had planned for dinner. Pam’s pizza was nice. I had an apple juice, which tasted much like vanilla, but obviously had grated apple in it, not bad, Pam had mango juice which was very good.

A guy dropped off a few nuts on our table, which we ate, they were salted and delicious. We asked him for some, which he sold us, and put four quarter sheets of yellow pages telephone book on the table, one with almonds, one with peanuts and one with pumpkin seeds, all salted. We chewed away merrily on them all, enjoying the salt, I was commenting on how the pumpkin seeds were giving us plenty of roughage when we noticed that the locals were peeling theirs and piling the empty shells on the fourth piece of paper, by now we had already eaten quite a few…

The meal was cheap, in total 137 Dirhams. We headed back to the hotel, as we had to meet Rico and the owner of the boat, ‘7 Days’, Mohammed Filali at 8pm. We met with them and chatted a bit, before heading for bed at around 8.30, exhausted.

We slept till 5.30, then got up, showered and headed for breakfast on the first floor of the nightclub at the hotel. The breakfast was pretty disorganized, I think we were too early and 6.30 is their actual opening time.
We left the hotel at around 7.30, stopped at a bakery on the way to the harbor for some fresh baguettes, croissants etc. and headed for the boat. 7 Days is a lovely 43 foot Egg Harbour sports fisher.

She was moored next to Gladius, another charter sportfisher, that had an aussie skipper, Jonno, and South African skipper Stuart Simpson was on board as well. They were trying to get a record white marlin for the boat owner fishing on fly with 4lb tippet. Apparently this is a very frustrating challenge, with the fly even breaking off on the cast sometimes.

We headed out and discovered that there was quite a big swell running and we all started feeling queasy on the way out. I chundered, so did Pam, Shaun looked pale, so Pam gave him a pill. Vincent was feeling crap and Rico was sweating and feeling terrible, we blamed the sausages that he had at breakfast, they smelt suspect to me, and none of the rest of us had any.

We headed out and stopped not too far out in about 40m of water and jigged for mackerel with sabiki jigs, collecting about 30 or so.

It was a 20 mile run out to the fishing grounds. The fish were in around 150m of water, so that is where we started.

We hadn’t been pulling the teasers long when I glanced down and saw the electric blue of a pair of lit up pecs and a tail below and behind one of the teasers. We all cast whatever we had handy and the fish didn’t stick around or eat anything. Not long after that a pack of three fish came in on the teasers and Rico hooked one on a live mackerel that he had cast at one of the fish.
He handed the rod to Vincent, who fought and landed a white marlin of around 25 kg’s. It was the first white marlin that I had ever seen, a very acrobatic and aerobatic fish, jumping a lot. Next fish up, Vincent hooked himself on a live mackerel and circle hook, and he fought this one longer, it was a bigger fish. He was using a Talica 12 with 30lb mono and a light trolling rod.
I jumped into the water with the go pro when the fish was near the boat and filmed it being landed and released, it was very tired, a good fish, not far off the junior record of 102lbs.

The next fish that was hooked was handed to Pam, who did a good job and landed her first Marlin, a fish of around 35kg’s. All the while I was now casting plugs, and soft plastics rigged on circle hooks and trying to get one for myself. The fish did come in to my lures and came close to eating, but none actually bit.

The teasing setup is not ideal, with two teasers being run off electric reels above the skipper’s head and two dredge lines in the water with daisy chains on them. All teasers were still in the water when the fish had come in, and the boat kept stopping and starting, never really lying still. The fish were locking on to one teaser, coming in hot, but totally focused on the teaser, they liked green a lot. With two livebaits also being thrown into the water each time, my poppers and plastics were just one of many options, and unsurprisingly, I didn’t get a fish.

Rico hooked and landed another fish, the 4th for the boat for the day. Not bad, we raised about 10 fish in total. Rico pulled his fish harder and he got it in quicker than the others. I jumped in and got some footage of the fish a bit more lit up, as well as seeing and filming a free swimmer that was nearby. The water was stunningly clean and it was such a pleasure to cool off for a few minutes.

After that we raised another fish, which the boat owner threw a live mackerel at, but lost when he tightened up too early, pulling the circle hook out of the fish’s mouth.

We had a chat on the way back, and decided to change things up a bit tomorrow and try to get the crew all doing their jobs better and less chaos, we will see how tomorrow goes. There is plenty of potential, and plenty of fish, so it should be good!

We started heading back at 4.30pm, and hit the docks in good daylight and spent a bit of time setting up more tackle for tomorrow. Then we headed back to the hotel, had a shower and the four of us, Pam, Rico, Vincent and myself went for Pizzas on the promenade. Came home at around 9.30, well tired again and ready for a good night sleep.

Tomorrow we will only fish one person at a time for each fish we raise, and hopefully do better. Rico will handle the teaser, John just drive the boat, and Pam can act as a spotter. We will see how it goes.

Day 2:

Breakfast at 6.30am, more organized this time. We were picked up at 7am, and taken to the boat. We stopped for mackerel again on the yozuri’s, and caught a bunch of them near a channel marker bouy.

We headed out to the same area as yesterday with a different approach in mind. We only put out one teaser, on a rod, flatline from the starboard side, with Rico handling that. We rigged a green kona, their favourite from yesterday, with a ballyhoo in the middle, sewn firmly onto a mono loop with floss.

On the port corner we put out a dredge bar with a shoal of reflective tape fish off it and a dive weight to keep it down.

I rigged one rod with a popper and assist, and the other rod with an 8 inch soft plastic jerkbait rigged on a wire pigtail, on an 8/0 vmc tournament circle hook. I stowed them both in the holders on the back of the fighting chair. One Trevala 6’6” MH with a Spheros 6000 and 50lb power pro max cuatro line, with a 60lb fluorocarbon leader. The other a Terez 40lb 7’ stick with a Stella 8000 reel and 50lb Max Cuatro.

Within ten minutes of putting the teaser out we had a fish up. Rico cranked the teaser in, bringing the fish in close while I made my cast. The fish was not overly interested in my soft plastic that I cast at it, and it disappeared after e few seconds. We trolled around again, then picked up the same fish again on the teaser going over the same spot. I sent the plastic in again and wiggled it around enticingly and the fish came and made a swipe, missing. It turned, came back and ate the plastic, sinking down to where I could barely see it. It didn’t turn or move off, just kind of hung down there, looking like it was chewing the plastic. I had to do a slow count to six, praying that it wouldn’t spit the lure before I started tightening up the drag. I was fishing with the drag as loose as I could while still managing to retrieve the lure. As the line went tight the fish started to take off, it was spectacular. It leapt straight out of the water and was incredibly aerial, racing along, jumping, twisting, turning. There was very little line drag in the water and the speed and power was awesome to behold. The braid being so direct was a little disconcerting and I would definitely use a mono topshot next time, as you don’t need to cast far, and some stretch would be nice to take the shock. With all of that jumping and twisting that fish managed to change the shape of the circle hook, as I was fighting it pretty hard, landing it in around ten minutes or so. I was actually impressed at how little the hook bent after the amount of pressure I put on the fish.

It was one of my most spectacular catches ever. That fish coming in, lit up, with those neon blue pecs glowing in the purple water, and the shimmering blue tail sweeping behind. Watching its reactions and movements as it was so visible, it came in right beneath me, and ate the plastic no more than 5 metres from the back of the boat. The stamina and energy to then sustain a fight with spectacular jumps, some high, some long, but repeated again and again, showing off his spectacular body was simply amazing.

I was elated, stoked, absolutely thrilled to experience it and my trip to Morocco was already made, right there.

After that I decided to try with fly. The fish however, seemed less keen to play that game. I had shots at five fish on fly, and most of them came in, had a good look and refused to eat. The last one came up from beneath and ate the fly side on, perfectly, and taking me by surprise. It ate the fly between strips with my stripping hand off the line and I couldn’t get my hand onto the line quickly enough before it had spat the fly again. Good to get aneat, but sad that it didn’t hang on a mite longer. It gives me hope for tomorrow though.

We came back at the same time as yesterday and arrived at the hotel, to find Henno in the lobby. We had a beer together in the pub, then a quick shower and headed back to the promenade for dinner again. This time I had spaghetti bolognaise, while Pam had chicken fillet with mushroom sauce, chips and salad, it looked great too. We had banana juice with our meals, the fresh fruit juices here are excellent.

The people are so relaxed, there is no begging, nobody pressuring you to buy anything. The poor people seem to be very uneducated, there is a big class gap. But everybody seems to be very pleasant.

Our tally today was eight fish raised for the day and two landed, as Rico hooked one on a livebait after it had refused the fly, and Vincent landed it. Sadly it had got gut hooked and regurgitated its stomach. Anyhow, Rico cut the line and released it, so hopefully it will swallow its stomach and be ok.

Day 3:
We headed out with Henno this morning, Pam stayed at the hotel, tired. We went west this time, towards Casablanca, where Rico had enjoyed all of his success last year fishing with Trevor Hansen.

We stopped at a channel marker bouy to get mackerel, got a bunch and moved on. It was very overcast and actually quite cool when the boat was moving.

We ran for about an hour and a half, then put out teasers, with both teasers running off the two electric reels above the skipper, and Rico’s dredge bar on a line off the back. We worked around some long line and gill netting boats, small ones, and their nets or lines. Nothing, no birds, just a few dolphins which came and swam briefly in front of the boat, but lost interest quite quickly, they were big and dark with a hooked fin, almost pilot whale size.

We had no action at all until after 1pm. The sun started to come out and a fish came onto the teasers. Rico cast a live mackerel out and hooked the fish, then handed the rod to Henno. I took some pics from above with my still camera of the fish coming charging in, with its fins all lit up. Then I went downstairs and put on mask, snorkel and fins and jumped in. I swam along the line until it disappeared into the misty blue depths. After a bit I saw something white, which materialized into remoras, hanging onto the sides of the marlin. Then the fish became visible, blue from directly above and I swam above it as it slowly rose up to the surface, beautiful. Shaun in the meantime flew the drone and got some cool footage from above of the fish jumping etc.

The line got wrapped around the keel and the prop of the boat and I swam over and untangled it, so that Henno could continue fighting his fish. Rico leadered it, then it jumped and he let go, then he leadered it again, but it took off, and the line wrapped around the tip of the rod and broke off. A landed fish for Henno, but sadly no photo.

We carried on trolling teasers in the nice bright sunshine, but there was no sign of anymore fish. The baitballs on the sounder were all deep, around 100m, we were working a depth of around 140m, as that is where the best action had been the last few days.

We pulled lines up at 4.30pm and headed in. The other charter boats had very little action too, with only one other white being landed. Just a really quiet day. The barometer was sitting at 1015.26 not too sure how that is here, I will have to check tomorrow.

Came back to the hotel, showered, cleaned my mask with toothpaste, and waited for Pam, who arrived after 7pm. She had been out and about in Mohammedia, checking out street vendors and shops. She bought a couple of small Tagines to take home.

We went to a street side restaurant near the Kasbah ( old Arabian market place with arches and a roof) for dinner. The restaurant was on the edge of a village square, with a big fountain in the middle, opposite the arched entrance to the Kasbah. There were lots of people walking around and some sitting on the edge of the fountain chatting. There were street vendors with fruits such as plums, peaches, bananas, prickly pears, figs, dates etc on carts and tables. For dinner we had cows head, bread and bean, chick pea and noodle soup, called Harira. We also had rotis, orange juice and sweet mint tea with little blocks of sugar to add. The whole meal for six people came to 280 durhams. Had a bit of a walk around the Kasbah afterwards, checking out the stalls and street food. Plan to go there tomorrow night and just eat streetfood snacks, maybe some nice kebabs and things.

There were stalls with olives in all sorts of states, stuffed, pipless, with pips, pickled, marinated in chili etc.
There were also stalls with spices, garlic, ginger, cumin, dhania seeds, chili, saffron, turmeric etc.

The cows head had the consistency of pulled pork and had some soft, fatty bits. It was flavoured with cumin, and not much salt, but there was salt on the table and bowls of chili sauce, which actually made it spicy and delicious.

The people are very courteous, not ever approaching or hassling us, and not making much eye contact, but if you engage them they are really friendly and pleasant. They walk slowly, eat slowly, talk and have a lot of family time, I guess the no booze thing helps. They seem indifferent to pics being taken, though I try not to be obvious. =There are very few women wearing burkas, but they are mostly Muslims. We hear the muezzin calling the people to prayer from the mosques at the appropriate prayer times.

We saw few, if any tourists. The Kasbah and streets were humming with local people, especially at night. From children to teens, adults and oldies, everybody seems to wander the streets at night and socialize out there.

Very few people seem to be able to speak or understand English. The google translator app is a great idea! They are very keen to try and make themselves understood though, and have lots of patience and courtesy.

We are only going out at 8am tomorrow as the low tide will be at around 10 am and we need it to start pushing before the fish come on.

Day 4:
We got up at 6.30am, went to breakfast at 7.30am and were collected by John at 8am. He told us that another boat, “One More”, which is the top boat in the area, had gone up to fish around Rabat yesterday, around 35 miles East of Mohammedia. They raised 18 fish and landed 11. Yoh, on a day when we only saw one fish!

Obviously our plan then changed and we unanimously decided to head off towards Rabat and look for those fish ourselves.
We ran for a couple of hours, arriving in the area at 11am. We started trolling our teasers, with no interest shown by any fish until after 1.30pm. The first fish to come up followed a teaser in, but the captain didn’t take the boat out of gear, or the teasers out of the water. I shouted at him to stop the boat, he said it was stopped, but there was boiling propwash coming out from below the boat and my livebait was skipping on the top, beating itself to death. In fact when I pulled it in, it was stone dead. We had a bit of a chin wag about what it was that we were trying to do, and the importance of getting the teasers out of the water and the boat to stop, then continued. That fish had not even lit up, we only could see the dorsal out of the water behind the teaser, twitching and shivering the way they do.

About half an hour or so later another fish made a brief appearance, the dorsal fin showing for a second behind the teaser, then disappearing. We dropped livebaits back and it came up onto the surface and sniffed around the livies, then disappeared for good.
We trolled for almost an hour, then another fish came in on the teasers, this one was lit up a bit, but still not a hot fish. We dropped mackerel back and the fish ate one. I held the rod and let the line go tight and the circle hook find its mark. The fish was very lazy, not running at all, just hanging around the back of the boat, not jumping, just lifting its head from the water a couple of times and shaking it. I pulled it in very quickly. Ousman grabbed the leader, then the bill, the hook fell out and he somehow lost his grip on the bill, so the fish was gone, but counts as a landed fish, just no photo’s.
It was very frustrating, all of that time and effort put in for a fish that gave less of a pull than a 5kg grouper.

I took a look at the Barometer, it had dropped quite sharply from 1012hpa to 1010hpa in the space of ten minutes, then it started to go back up, the bite came on the drop. The barometer has been steadily dropping over the last 4 days, maybe this is part of the reason why the fish have gotten harder to catch. The water temp has been a steady 23.5 degrees and is clean and deep indigo. It was very overcast again today, with the sun making some appearances during the afternoon, but never for very long. None of this explains why we had no fish, as well as all of the other boats yesterday in the area off Mohammedia and Casablanca, and yet One More, had raised 18 and landed 11 yesterday, how localized is the barometric pressure? They were 35 miles east of us, could they have been experiencing different pressure? Or was it something else? There did seem to be more birds around the Rabat area, but mostly gulls and shearwater, no terns at all. There were mainly groups of them floating on the water, not a great sign.

We have decided to take our off day tomorrow and use the day to take the train to Casablanca and go and explore the market there and do some filming of local sights, culture etc.

Went out to the restaurant next to the Kasbah again. I got to have my first proper Tagine! It was a delicious one with chicken and raisins, which I ate with flat bread. Pam and I ended up sharing it, as there was a lot of food. We also had sweet mint tea, poured from silver teapots into small glasses. Pam ordered couscous, which never arrived, but we were happy, as we had plenty to eat. The food at this place is ridiculously cheap, Henno’s salad cost less than R15 and would be enough for four people as a good salad.
After dinner Pam and I took a walk around the Kasbah, with me taking pics of the stalls, people and scenes. I was trying to get natural, unposed pics, I had to be a bit sneaky, and got shouted at by some dude, and finger waggled by some old lady. I am just starting to learn and enjoy street photography.
Pam and I walked back to the hotel, then carried on for a little bit along the promenade. There were still plenty of people around, kids still riding ponies and paddling the little paddleboats in the inflatable pool at the beach, even though it was around 11.15pm. The Moroccans are real night owls!

Day 5

We had a much needed sleep in, only meeting for breakfast at 9.30am. We then caught a taxi, which we went and found ourselves after asking reception to call some. Service is not a big priority around here, but the people are good and honest. We left Henno at the hotel, as we were going to walk a lot, and it would have been too much for him.
The taxis took us to the Gare (Station), where we bought 2nd class tickets to Casablanca, a 25minute train ride away. We jumped on the train and enjoyed the aircon and comfort of a nice ride, going past slums, and all sorts of buildings, one thing that stood out to me was satellite dishes everywhere. These guys are big on Satelite TV. They are not that big on painting the exteriors of their buildings though, those are generally pretty decrepit.

At the station in Casablanca we used the bathroom, as there was not likely to be another easy spot, then headed out. We caught taxis, red ones here in Casablanca, as opposed to the turquoise ones in Mohammedia. Also much more costly. The ride from the Avanti Hotel in Mohammedia had been 13 Durhams and was further. The cost in Casblanca the short way to the market was 50 Durhams.

We went in to the fish market first, I wanted to see what sea life they were harvesting and eating in the area. It was very clean and hygienic, I would say the cleanest and best fish market I have been to in Africa. The smell was not strong or offensive, there was lots of crushed ice, most of the things like oysters, crabs, mussels, some sort of pencil bait, lobsters etc were still alive. All products were well presented and neat, and everyone was very friendly and happy to chat and take pics with us. They loved Pam (of course) and all wanted pics with her, she thought it was her blonde hair, but it turns out that is her blue eyes. The Moroccans are big on eyes, and a lot of their art depicts a woman’s eyes.

We then went down the road to the old medina, where we walked through narrow alleys and stalls of everything from leather work, spices, argan oil, lots of jewelry stands, European football shirts, Louis Vitton bags, honey, Calvin Klein boxers, you name it. Lots of lovely fresh fruit and veg, not like woolies, the real deal.
Then we went and sat at a street side café’ and had tagines and bread. One with veg and a bit of meat in the middle, and the other fish balls in a tasty gravy, both very nice. When the time came for people to go to prayers, they up and left, and just then a couple of people came around asking for leftovers, basically beggars, but not a hassle. We did have two or three women with babies and scarves covering their faces and hair, tapping on a shoulder and saying please, then pointing at the baby and making eating signals. Casablanca is different to Mohammedia, Much bigger, and more people. A b it like comparing Vilanculos to Inhassoro in Mozambique.

We chatted to the honey seller lady, a really nice woman, about the hand with the eye trinkets and symbols we had been seeing at various places. She explained that it was to ward off envious or evil eyes. She had a cool stand with lots of old pots and things and bee hives and even a full bee keeping suit and a smoker.

We walked back to the station, checking out stalls along the outside of the medina. We bought a cover for our bed, a lovely blue cloth. We also stopped and had delicious ice cold, freshly squeezed orange juice for 10 durhams a cup. The peeled oranges are kept in a cooler box of ice, and when you order then he cuts them in half and puts each half into the squeezer, like a big garlic crusher. About three oranges make a cup of juice.

We bought second class tickets to go back to Mohammedia, and got booted out of first class by the conductor, we suspected that we may have got it wrong, the seats were nicer and the aircon so cool…

We took a taxi back to the hotel and had a short nap, then met the others in the lobby. Shaun has also booked in now, as the landlord at the place he was staying (skipper’s apartment) has found out that he was there and said no ways, he must move out.

We went along the promenade to the pizza place, Corsica, and had dinner. Pam and I wanted shwarma’s and the waiter rode his bike to the Kasbah to fetch some for us. Rico had pasta, Vincent had chicken steak with mushroom sauce, Henno Mexican Pizza and me, Pam and Shaun had shwarmas.

Day 6

We were picked up at 6am by John and went to the harbor. We struggled for bait in foggy conditions, but eventually got enough. We headed out, and as we came out of the fog bank, there was a super pod of spinner dolphins in front of us, and plenty of shearwaters paddling around on the surface. We stuck with them for a bit, with Shaun standing in the bows with his go pro, filming. We then moved on to the 140m area and put teasers out, one daisy chain of squids on each side off the electric reels above the skipper. One pink and one green, each with a chugger on the end pulling a smoke trail.

We had no hits for a few hours, with other boats also raising no fish. Finally a fish came up on the teasers, glowing pecs and tail, excited and hot. He got stuck to the green daisy chain, and followed it right past the stern, to the side, where the teaser left the water. He started scouting around, and I dropped my live mackerel back a bit and he picked it up. I watched the line speed up off the spool of the reel with the bail arm open, then clicked over and let it tighten up, fish on!

This was a smallish fish, but full of energy. It did lots of spectacular jumps, close to the boat, as I kept the drag fairly tight. I was using one of Rico’s Terez rods, with an 8000 size reel, with a 30lb mono topshot, not very long, connected to braid beneath. A good setup for these fish.

I enjoyed the fight and landed him pretty quickly, with Rico leadering it and Ousman grabbing the bill. We brought it on board for a present, then back overboard for a quick revival and release.

This turned out to be the only fish for the day, the rest of the day we trolled and trolled, but couldn’t raise a fish.

This evening we had a shwarma that Shaun fetched us from the margane, where burrito girl was making amazing ‘burritos’ according to our skipper. It was an excellent wrap type thing filled with spicy mince, chips and I don’t know what else, but mighty tasty! Not a pita bread as we know it, more of a wrapped bundle of food, much like a burrito.

We had a couple of beers with Stuart and Jonno from Gladius at the hotel and heard some cool stories about fishing for blue marlin at Cape Verde.

Jonno was telling us that next week the locals here in Morocco would be killing sheep on a day called Eid El-Kebir, apparently every family in the country would kill a sheep on this day and dress up in their beat clothes and feast. A celebration and re enactment of Abraham’s sacrifice to God. Apparently the flies would be wild and there would be skins piled up on the sides of the roads, with nobody wanting them. This festival was happening a week after we left Morocco, and sheep were beginning to be stockpiled in various places.

He also told us that he had been doing seasons in Morocco for 6 years and a lot had changed socially and culturally, with rules being relaxed. Morocco is at the western edge of the Middle East, the gateway to Africa and the Middle East from Europe. It is therefore, more influenced by European culture than some other Muslim countries are.

Tomorrow we start our journey home, which is going to be long, via Dubai again. It has been an amazing week. I have thoroughly enjoyed the white marlin, the people and the sights, tastes and experiences of Morocco. I would definitely come here again. The fishing for white marlin is amazing. They are so visual, so exciting! Rico is planning on chartering a boat for the full season next year, and then put groups together to fill it. I think he will do well, it is an amazing trip and an incredible experience.

The white marlin are in the same sort of size and power category as sailfish. Pretty much any tackle that is good for sails will be perfect for white marlin. They are even more visually exciting than sailfish, in that they have that electric blue glow on their fins when lit up, and they are as aerial or more so than sailfish. Teasing them in and then flicking live baits, lures or flies at them is very exciting. They can be finicky about feeding at times, but that seems to be the nature of these fish, a little unpredictable, but tons of fun!

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